Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 861–873 | Cite as

Conservation and management of coastal slope woodlands with particular reference to Wales

  • Peter Martin RhindEmail author


It now seems likely that the first human colonists to reach this part of the world would have had to negotiate a coastal zone largely comprising a combination of towering sea cliffs, sand dunes, or closed canopy woodland even on some of the steepest slopes. On a few coastal slopes in Wales there are still remnants of these ancient woodlands now considered to be of major conservation interest and representing a coastal habitat that was no doubt much more widespread before human influence. Nevertheless, there are few detailed studies of these woodlands. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to carry out a basic assessment of their ecology and conservation, and to provide both a collation of all existing stands in Wales (Table 1, Fig. 4) and review of all existing ecological surveys. In terms of arboreal species many of the most natural examples are characterised by Quercus petraea (sessile oak) and Corylus avellana (hazel). Some examples, including Gallt y Bwlch in North Wales, are extremely stunted typically growing to a maximum height of about three metres but in places canopy height can be lower than head height. These woodlands are distinctive in other ways and experience environmental conditions that differ from those just a few kilometres inland including less precipitation and more solar radiation. Reflected light from sea water is thought to provide additional solar radiation. Their species composition typically appear very natural with little evidence of management although in some cases there is evidence that coppicing took place many years ago. In Britain there are very few remaining examples of these distinctive coastal woodland and most have not been described in the terms of the United Kingdom’s National Vegetation Classification (Rodwell 1991). However, some appear to have affinities with the so-called Atlantic hazel woodlands of Scotland. After the last Ice Age, hazel and birch were the earliest woody species to become established in the UK dating back some 10,000 years BP. They predate both oak woodlands and the pine forests of Scotland. Hazel became well established in the coastal zones of Wales and Scotland from about 9500 years BP. The evidence provided here suggests a need to further review both the conservation and protection status of these distinctive woodlands.


Coastal Woodland Conservation Ecology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natural Resources Wales (NRW)WalesUK

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